When Machines Change Art by Aaron Hertzmann

Monday 16th January, 2023 - Bruce Sterling

*Historical and cultural continuity, in an essay well worth a look.


At a few times in history, new technologies came along that changed the way we make art. Machines, chemicals, and/or algorithms replaced some of the steps that artists did, changing how we made art—and, sometimes, radically transforming what we thought think art is.

Now seems like one of those times.

When change happens, it’s surprising, and it’s tempting to see it in extremes: the new technology is either going to improve everything or ruin everything. But the reality of how past technologies changed art is nuanced and complex, with different effects for different communities in the short-range and then the long-range.

In this post, I’m specifically focused on technologies that automate (or seem to automate) steps of the artistic process. What can past examples of such technologies changing art have in common, and do they have lessons for the current moment?

My main thesis is:

New art-making technologies change art in consistent ways, and studying the past helps us understand how things will change in the future.
This blog post is an attempt to identify these trends in past examples, and to judge if and how they’re relevant for “AI” art….